DALLAS - In a lot of households, cable and the Internet are two of the biggest utility bills every months. A lot of people don't look at those bills very carefully. But when Guy Manasse did, what he found shocked him.
Manasse had just renewed his contract with Verizon, for what he thought was $194 per month. But when he got his most recent bill, it was $200.
"The only thing that changed was my bill," Manasse said. "That's it. I got no additional service, no additional quality, nothing changed but the cost to me."
The difference, he found, was that Verizon was raising its charges for Manasse's three set top boxes (STB's), a fee which was not included in his contract. In essence, cable subscribers rent their set top boxes from their providers.
Verizon is boosting its fees for STB's by 25 percent to all its TV and Internet Fiber Optic (FiOS) residential customers across the country, in what it calls a "price modification." Nationwide, Verizon has 4.5 million FiOS subscribers. Since each of them has at least one set top box, the price increase will generate at least $108 million a year.
A set top box is necessary for television reception. Verizon is not modifying the devices. It is simply charging more for them.
"If I leave Verizon, I get penalized," Manasse said. "Yet they can raise my bill, and everything has to stay the way it is. And I have to live with it, because the cable will not work without the box."
Cable companies compete vigorously on contract packages, but the extra charges for hardware like set top boxes are rarely part of the package deal. And for Manasse, the extra charge is a deal breaker, when his contract expires.
"Just on principal alone, I can't trust Verizon," he said. "And I guarantee if something isn't changed here. It'll continue to happen."